Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Friday, February 13, 2009

When Chinatown's bulldozed and who's driving the S.S. Hudson against the CPRC

"The city manager is running the city not the city council and that needs to stop."

---Ward Four city council candidate Paul Davis at the Friday Morning Club.


Save Our Chinatown Committee seeks restraining order on Saturday

Members of the Save Our Chinatown Committee stated through an email that was sent out on Feb. 14 that they had witnessed bulldozers plowing over the Chinatown site earlier that morning. The site which is the planned location of a medical office building being built by developer and regular political campaign donor Doug Jacobs had been the central of controversy which brought hundreds of individuals to City Hall protesting to no avail, the destruction of artifacts on a portion of land on the site.

The following email was sent by one of the plaintiffs, Jean Wong to members of the city government including those who were attending or participating the Black History Parade and Expo event in downtown Riverside.

From: Jean Huffman Wong [email]
Sent: Saturday, February 14, 2009 9:47 AM
To: ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''
Subject: Bulldozers moving earth on Riverside Chinatown Historic Site

This is to inform you, the Riverside City Council & Mayor ,that this morning , Saturday February 14, 2009, at 7:00am, 2 members of Save Our Chinatown Committee (SOCC) observed bulldozer activity directly over the corner location of Tequesquite & Brockton = the location of the Riverside Historic Chinatown site. The archaeologist from Jones & Stokes did not arrive until shortly before 9:00am. A lot of earth had been moved by several bulldozers by then. I am
sending this message to you at 9:45 am –many bulldozers are now operating over many parts of the site simultaneously.
Jean H. Wong/ Ward 1 / [contact information]

Last Tuesday, the city council denied the appeal filed by the Save Our Chinatown Committee to preserve a section of the land parcel until technology had advanced enough to be able to safely excavate artifacts believed to rest beneath the surface. And apparently no time was wasted to turn the soil to destroy any remaining artifacts by their opposition even while the case continues to work its way through the court system.

Margie Akin blogs on Chinatown and provides links including what you can do to help.

Save-Riverside posted these videos which documented the bulldozing of the Chinatown site on Valentines Day.

The Friday Morning Club on Feb. 13 hosted retired police chief and former Community Police Review Commission member Bill Howe who addressed them on the issues pertaining to the beleaguered commission especially those impacting it in recent months. Many people in attendance were concerned about what they heard about the extent of micromanagement of the commission exercised by City Hall and asked many questions including what action they could take as city residents in the face of the latest round of actions against the CPRC by the city government and two of its direct employees.

Ward Four city council candidate Paul Davis, a former law enforcement officer also appeared at the meeting and expressed his concerns about what had happened to the CPRC. The statements he made on the commission were the strongest so far in his political campaign on this reemerging issue. Once again, the panel is becoming a focal issue in the city just in time for the new election cycle but it remains to be seen exactly how it will impact the election process and more importantly, its outcome.

Davis also offered his theories of who was behind the recent actions taken against the CPRC involving the changes surrounding the officer-involved death investigative protocol. He said that City Manager Brad Hudson was simply doing what the incumbent, Councilman Frank Schiavone, had directed him to do in regards to the changing of protocol involving how the CPRC handles these investigations. He added that the city manager was supposed to consult with the commission, not micromanage it but that Hudson was under the city council and ultimately it was the city council or members of it which was directing his actions regarding the CPRC. He also added that Mayor Ron Loveridge should have intervened in addressing potential conflict of interest issues pertaining to Schiavone's ability to address police matters.

David could be focusing mostly on criticizing his election rival in his statements because it's an election year but he's not the first person to speculate about Schiavone's role in this latest "controversy" involving the CPRC. And he probably won't be the last.

Others have pointed to Schiavone and to Councilman Steve Adams (and both of them lead the straw polls) because they're the least supportive of the CPRC among the elected officials on the dais, they've received the most PAC money in at least one election (and in Schiavone's case, more) from the Riverside Police Officers' Association and if the rest of the city council is indecisive or passive on this issue (which it is), it doesn't take more than two elected officials to issue a mandate to the city manager and city attorney in terms of how the CPRC will be handled.

It's hard to know exactly what's going on because except for the recent Governmental Affairs Committee meeting, most of what's been taking place has gone on behind closed doors and not in a public forum but the little which has emerged provided some valuable clues to whose strings are being pulled to dance and who's pulling those strings in this latest drama out of City Hall.

It took nearly six months for the issue involving the implementation of the Hudson directive just to get to the Governmental Affairs Committee and by the end of that meeting, it wasn't clear exactly what path the city was taking in the face of criticism of the Hudson Directive which had become the Hudson Protocol through the submission of a written report from Hudson's office. A week later, different players in that meeting had different interpretations of what exactly was the course designated through vote by the Governmental Affairs Committee. And the implementation of whatever the Governmental Affairs Committee's recommendation actually was will probably look even more different.

So what's the city council's views or stance on this contentious issue as a whole? No one really knows except the council appears to be divided at least three different ways and the only sign of leadership from the dais is from the CPRC's opponents.

None of the city council members have said or given any indication at least in public that Hudson is doing anything but acting under his own volition. But the writing is on the wall for most of the people following the situation who remember a time when both the city manager and city attorney's offices were as hands off the commission as they are hands on it now and the CPRC's executive director/manager didn't cross verbal swords in regular conflicts with members of the commission.

So what changed? Why did City Attorney Greg Priamos refuse to attend a workshop in his honor that the CPRC hosted in 2004 claiming that he couldn't discuss anything with the commission unless it was in a closed session due to confidentiality issues? Why has Priamos done an 180 degree turn in the past two years and now is dictating how the commission can spend its budget and which officer-involved deaths it can investigate?

There can only really be one explanation for how Priamos 2004 and Priamos 2008 can coexist without some sort of clash of personas.

The difference between 2004 and 2008 are the directions and directives that are coming out of the city council partially or in its entirety to its direct employees in how to handle the CPRC. The difference is the role that the city council's playing in the direct operations of the CPRC.

And the executive manager positions's been reduced to part-time at best and the chain of command lines are cemented between that position and the city manager's office whereas they are dotted between the manager position and the members of the CPRC. The situation involving the current manager brings to mind the circumstances which led to his predecessor's "resignation" in 2006 when confronted with a different list of changes involving the officer-involved death investigation protocol.

What's the history of the change in officer-involved death investigative protocol in more recent months?

Last August, the city manager's office imposed a directive forbidding the CPRC from initiating investigations into officer-involved deaths until the department had completed its own investigations, a process taking from six months to over a year. Hudson also said that the city attorney's office would withhold the CPRC's budgetary funds if it tried to initiate the investigations. The commission on several occasions voted to initiate independent investigations into the deaths of Carlos Quinonez, Fernando Sanchez and Marlon Acevedo. Manager Kevin Rogan said after the votes that he would not be contacting the investigators to begin their investigations. None of the four officer-involved deaths which have occurred since Sept. 1 have had investigations successfully initiated into them by the CPRC.

The CPRC opted not to initiate an investigation into the most recent officer-involved death of Russell Franklin Hyatt.

Anyway back to the Friday Morning Club meeting where the CPRC was the topic of discussion.

In response to questions on what city residents could do to change this suddenly imposed change in protocol which violated a long-standing protocol of allowing the CPRC to set its own policies, procedures and practices, Davis had one suggestion.

"If you elect me, I'll work to change it," Davis said.

And when he made that statement, there were members of the audience including those in Ward Four nodding their heads.

Election 2009, let the games begin.

The controversy into the recent immigration raids and police actions taken by the U.S. Border Patrol's Riverside office and the Riverside Police Department respectively continued. Five more Guatemalan undocumented immigrants were taken into custody in Casa Blanca by the Border Patrol and shipped off to detention centers in either Temecula or Arizona.

Lt. Bruce Loftus apparently admitted at a community meeting that he had taken the heat for the recent actions and that what had happened was on him. But apparently he also said the police department had no policy in place on the handling of undocumented immigrants and warned the residents of Casa Blanca to be wary of outside forces trying to influence them on immigration and day laborer issues. Why the department should care or have any vested say in who residents in Casa Blanca listen to and who they don't isn't really clear. Maybe they'll clarify that point at the next meeting.

The "outside agitator" admonition raises its head once again.

At any rate, the CPRC's Policies, Procedures and Bylaws committee might be examining the department's policy on undocumented immigrants at a future meeting, that is if it gets past the muster of the dynamic duo which it probably won't.

More revelations coming out of that problematic audit done of whether or not user fees were collected in connection with the use of the Ben Clark Training Center.

Furloughs not layoffs for San Bernardino Police Department officers?

(excerpt, San Bernardino Sun)

In his own proposal, Police Chief Michael Billdt laid out a list of cost-saving ideas that he believes could save the city an additional $576,000 this fiscal year and $2.7 million the following year.

Citing a possible hindrance to the new plan, City Attorney James F. Penman said "at first glance" it appears that furloughing police violates the city charter.

Then there were those who are most directly impacted, the rank-and-file officers, who said they are more confused than ever by what the city is asking of them.

"One minute it is a 10 percent reduction (in pay), another is a layoff and sometimes it is both," said union Vice President Travis Walker. "The association members want to help the city that we serve during these difficult times, but we cannot be expected to agree to a proposal that is constantly changing."

The furloughs would mean shaving an hour off every officer's 10-hour shift, saving about $2.5 million annually. Interim City Manager Mark Weinberg is also proposing eliminating 16 sworn positions through vacancies and attrition.

But the police union is still grimacing over the proposal.

Some city officials blame neglect for the city's budget woes.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

As officials struggle to stave off the crisis, they are powerless to change a half-century-old provision in the city charter that fuels their biggest expense: spending on San Bernardino's police and fire departments that has continued to grow as other departments stayed flat or declined.

A city consultant warned two years ago that the city's expenses could soon outpace its income. With many departments pared to the bone, they urged higher fees and taxes. But officials didn't close the gap.

The same consultants warned two years ago that the budget reserve was "at the minimum of standards of prudence" and the city government's financial condition "fragile." But city officials didn't add substantially to the fund.

Esther Estrada, the City Council's longest-serving member, said she remembers the warnings.

But for a part-time legislative body like the council, there can be a gap between such cautions and practical action, Estrada said.

"It's a little hard to put money in a savings account when we don't have the money," she said. "It's like finances at home. Say I have $40 for groceries. What am I going to do, eat or put that money in a savings account?"

Former San Bernardino County Assessor Bill Postmus has left the building or at least stepped down from political office.

(excerpt, Press Enterprise)

Postmus cleaned out his office of personal items Wednesday evening and did not address his staff, Assistant Assessor Dennis Draeger said today. No farewell parties or luncheons were held, he said.

"He's already picked up everything that belonged to him," Draeger said.

In his letter last week, Postmus said he was stepping down to "overcome a battle with substance abuse." He reportedly has struggled with addiction to prescription drugs and methamphetamine.

The San Bernardino County district attorney's investigation continues an investigation that began after prosecutors received information in August 2007 about possible misuse of public resources for political activity in the assessor's office.

In Galveston, Texas, the police department and review board are in conflict over training provided by the police department to commissioners.

(excerpt, The Daily News)

Board members came to the city council Thursday to complain about the 40-hour training curriculum established by Police Chief Charles Wiley. The material is unnecessary, unrelated to their work on the board and a waste of time, they said.

Their opposition to the training has created such an antagonistic atmosphere that City Manager Steve LeBlanc has had to interfere.

At LeBlanc’s request, Wiley pared down the curriculum to about 28 hours, but even the assistant city manager who oversees the police department doesn’t think that’s enough.

After attending the last of the three training sessions the board has so far had, Lloyd Renderer described the meeting as a convoluted mess.

Likening it to a sandbox, as soon as the group got together, people started throwing sand, Renderer told the council.

“These poor people are citizens nominated to do an important function,” he said. “You have to have the basics, but 40 hours, in my opinion, is excessive.”

A federal task force is launching an investigation of a Philadelphia Police Department narcotics officer.

(excerpt, Philadelphia Inquirer)

The task force, announced shortly before noon today by Mayor Nutter, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and Janice Fedarcyk, who heads the FBI office in Philadelphia, will also include investigators from the offices of city Inspector General Amy Kurland and Integrity Officer Curtis Douglas.

Ramsey said there was no evidence that the allegations involved any officer other than Jeffrey Cujdik, 34, a 12-year veteran of the police department.

Late last month, Cujdik was relieved of all police duties and surrendered his badge and gun, although Ramsey said Cujdik continues to be paid.

Ramsey said police first learned of the allegations in early December and had begun a probe with the help of a city police officers assigned to work with the FBI office here.

"We think high ethical statndards matter in Philadelphia, but especially the police department," Nutter said.

Nutter promised a "complete and thorough investigation" and "swift action."

Protests continue in Oakland over the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant, this time at a BART board meeting.

(excerpt, San Francisco Chronicle)

The crowd at the Kaiser Center in Oakland at times shouted down directors and forced the nine-member elected board to reshuffle its agenda and drop the regular time limit on public comments. Protesters unfurled a large banner with an image of Oscar Grant, the man who was fatally shot by BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle as he lay face down on the ground. The officer, who resigned from the force, is facing a murder charge.

At one point, a heated exchange between BART Director Joel Keller and Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks led to several members of the audience charging toward Keller. That drew BART police, but Keller told the officers to "back off."

The incident was sparked when Keller held up a flyer with photos of Oakland homicide victims and asked the councilwoman what she was doing about those cases. He later apologized.

Oh, and someone turned the lights off. They were quickly turned back on.

Much of what was said - by members of the public, board members and BART staff - was not new, with the criticisms, the demands and the apologies echoing remarks from previous forums and demonstrations. What Thursday's meeting showed, however, was that the fallout from the Jan. 1 shooting death of Grant, an unarmed 22-year-old, is as fresh now as it was six weeks ago when it occurred.

"We will not be going away," Brooks said.

Meanwhile, a judge on the case will determine whether a gag order remains in effect.

What is $110,000? The cost of settling a lawsuit filed against an Oakland Police Department officer by a woman who alleged he groped her.

(excerpt, San Francisco Chronicle)

The settlement is the third payout in a misconduct case that has already cost the city more than $2 million. The City Council approved it in closed session this month and is expected to formally ratify it Tuesday.

The officer, Richard Valerga, resigned from the department in 2005 and was sentenced to six months in jail after pleading no contest to criminal charges of harassing women during illegal car stops.

The plaintiff in the latest settlement, identified only as Jane Roe, said Valerga turned on his emergency lights, honked at her and directed her to pull over on Park Boulevard near Oakland High School on March 19, 2005. She said she hadn't committed any crime or traffic infraction.
Valerga demanded that she hand over her driver's license and angrily told her to get into the front seat of his police car, said the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland.

The officer then grabbed the woman's left hand "and also began touching her thigh" before letting her go, the suit said.

"The plaintiff did not consent to this outrageous physical contact and was extremely afraid and shocked by the unconscionable behavior of defendant Valerga," said the suit, which named the city and Valerga as defendants.

Several Hawthorne Police Department officers were investigated for excessive force against a man and the department's own investigation cleared them. However, the city paid out $1 million in a settlement to the man who filed a lawsuit. The Los Angeles Times also discovered that the investigation was conducted by officers who never interviewed the man or one of the officers who as it turned out was a son of the police chief.

(excerpt, Los Angeles Times)

A Times review of records in the lawsuit found that internal affairs investigators never interviewed Goodrow nor the officers involved, one of whom was the police chief's son.

Goodrow's attorneys say internal affairs also failed to contact several witnesses who bolstered their client's claim that he was kicked in the face so hard that his jaw was broken.

Experts on police misconduct investigations said Hawthorne's probe fell far short of how other law enforcement agencies handle similar complaints. At many departments, they said, it is standard practice to interview officers accused of misconduct, and agencies will order officers to cooperate if need be.

"There is really no excuse for not doing it," said Merrick Bobb, a Los Angeles-based attorney and national expert on police practices.

Police Chief Michael Heffner declined to talk about his department's investigation or his son's involvement in the case. Officer Thomas Heffner said he punched Goodrow several times during the July 21, 2006, arrest, records show.

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